Doomed characters, teenage angst, societal issues, and blood-curling body horror all come together in Romancero. The Andalusian horror series on Prime Video follows a very intense, non-linear narrative that often feels hard to grasp, but you still get attached thanks to its charmingly hypnotic vibe. The series doesn’t care to explain a lot of things, which is bound to leave the audience in a state of confusion. We’re going to make an attempt to simplify it for you. A lot of it is going to be our interpretation though. Not to mention, you are also encouraged to explore a bit on your own. However, instead of following how the story is told on screen, we are putting together a constructive structure adhering to the chronology of events as much as possible.
What Happens To Jordan?
In an unnamed Andalusian desert town, young adult Jordan spends his days seeking thrills by stealing electronic gadgets from a local mall with his vagabond friends. At home, he takes care of his little brother and sisters and also helps his mother, Carmen. The father, Josué, is an abusive drunkard who is mostly a no-show and hates Jordan for “taking over his responsibilities” around the household.
On one of his kleptomaniac adventures, Jordan gets caught by the mall security person, who claims to know his father. He does manage to escape and comes back home straightaway, while feeling anxious about the beating he is going to get from Josué. After doing the dishes and cleaning the messy house, Jordan quietly slips into his room, hoping to get away from his father’s wrath in case he comes back. Sadly for Jordan, his father does return and wakes him up by kicking him. Then follows a series of beatings with the belt, which Carmen tries to stop by intervening but doesn’t manage to succeed. Still beating his son black and blue, Josué takes the boy outside and pins him to the ground. Blinded by hatred, a father orders his own son to get out of the house and never come back. Just when things are looking absolutely bleak for Jordan, something miraculously sinister happens. Some sort of creature comes out of nowhere and pounces on Josué, taking no time to gorge on him. To Jordan’s surprise, it is actually a young girl. Now out of the house, Carmen witnesses the whole thing and screams in horror. As Carmen helplessly looks at her good-for-nothing husband’s mutilated body, Jordan and the girl run away.
An investigation promptly follows, headed by local police officers Teo and Diago. Years ago, Carmen had a short-lived romance with Teo, and he never really got over her. The demented lawman also tried to coerce his own sister into having physical relations with him and, understandably, got shunned by her. His partner is no better. Earlier in the day, we saw Diego being mean to his wife Eli after failing to perform while getting physical. He then goes to a bar run by a local woman, where the customers are primarily immigrant people of color. Diego unnecessarily creates a ruckus, and when a black man tries to stop him, he arrests the man and storms off. That is followed by him forcing the black man to punch him and then beating the crap out of him in return, presumably in order to make himself feel powerful. Anyway, Jordan and the girl, Cornelia, soon find these two men hot on their heels. They do get fortunate as they manage to flee in a truck. By now, Jordan has managed to deduce that Cornelia is no ordinary human, and all she was looking for was something to fix her hunger. But after being on the run for hours, Cornelia starts to collapse as she finds herself in desperate need for the only thing that can save her—blood. Realizing there’s no other way to save the girl, Jordan doesn’t hesitate to run over a random man who was looking for a ride. Teo and Diego soon come across the body of the same man, who was killed in a similar manner as Josué. Armed with the information that a “strange girl” is behind all this, the detectives follow Jordan and Cornelia to the only place where they could take refuge—the deserted shopping mall.
At the mall, Cornelia and Jordan bond as he shares stories about his terrible childhood. He extensively talks about his terrible father and pretty much confesses how glad he is for what Cornelia has done to him. While she keeps trying to push him away, Jordan promises to be there for her and protect her by all means. We soon realize how seriously he meant that when he expertly gets Cornelia out of the mall (and danger) after accidentally getting shot by Teo.
Who Is Cornelia, And Why Is She Different?
An orphaned immigrant, Cornelia, was brought into the town and dropped into a camp by a man who appeared to be sweet and friendly to everyone. At the camp, she befriended this strange, hoodie-wearing woman, Tàbata. The man who brought Cornelia to the camp soon showed his true nature by taking her (and another young girl from the camp) to men who exploited her while he earned money as the go-between. Devastated after the horrible experience, Cornelia got back to the camp, where Tàbata rushed to her aid. What happened after that was something that could not be explained with logic but very much justified the course of events. Tàbata pincheed her skin above the wrist and made Cornelia drank her blood, while (what I considered) their soul was transported into a world of fiction. Thus, Cornelia became what she is, just like Tàbata. Her time under the wing of Tábata was soon cut short, as one night Tábata urged her to run away, as a coven of witches calling themselves “Kingdom of God” were on the hunt for people like them. Tábata was proved right as these witches, led by the megalomaniac Caterina, soon attacked the camp and murdered everyone, including the man who brought Cornelia there. Tábata was particularly tortured by Caterina, but she never begged for mercy and died a warrior’s death.
At the shopping mall, Cornelia somehow gets to feel that Tábata is dead, thanks to their newly formed blood ties. She alerts Jordan that people who are looking after her (and also him for whatever happened) are already there. We know how things go after that. Cornelia gets away and soon kills another man in order to fulfill her need. Jordan dies at the hands of Teo and returns to the police station inside a bodybag.
Do Cornelia and Jordan find the light by the end?
Despite all the bloodshed and black magic, the real terror of Romancero lies in things like domestic violence, racism, a falling economy where people in the desert town don’t really have much career prospects, and, of course, the common hatred towards the immigrant. If you think about it, “Kingdom of God” and what they’re really trying to do pretty much hints at purification. They come under the facade of a political party and promise the betterment of the town, but the real agenda of the group is basically cleaning up the immigrants by killing them.
People like Tábata and Cornelia work as metaphors for the force of nature, which firmly stands against the tyranny of Caterina. Not to mention, there’s a patriarchal angle here as well. Most of the adult male characters here are neck-deep in sin. Diego lives in this delusion that he is this alpha male who is protecting his family by tormenting the immigrant people of the town. Naturally he joins forces with someone like Caterina, who has the same goal as well. Teo, on the other hand, should not even be allowed to be in the police force given his history, but it is a clear case of both male and white privilege. In a land as horrifying as that, it is not surprising that Jordan and Cornelia would grow up to be tough, angsty teenagers who would try to take on all the evil. You might argue over the fact that Cornelia does murder people, and while killing someone like Josué is still okay, we don’t know for a fact whether the other two men that she kills are good or bad. In my humble opinion, it really doesn’t matter here, as in this world, the “male” species stands for all the oppression and violence.
Back at the police station, a furious Carmen confronts Teo for what he has done. You really feel for the poor woman, who has lost her husband and son within the span of hours on the same night. Throughout the movie, the locals of the town are shown to be extremely frustrated with the law enforcement. This is quite justified, given that men like Teo and Diego are the ones who are wearing badges and wielding guns. With what happened to Jordan as well as what Diego did earlier that day, an angry mob soon prepares to attack the police station. Another bunch of people gather around Diego’s house as well, and he calls Eli and “orders” her to get away with their son. As his doom slowly approaches, Diego sees a shadowy, monster-like figure. Given he had a meeting with Caterina and we saw him at a nearby beach, we can make the assumption that he went through some sort of witchy ritual, hoping that would make him all powerful and indestructible. Ironically, his end comes in the hands of two black immigrant kids, who shoot him right in the temple and laugh at the outcome. Watching mere teenagers do things like that might be a hard pill to swallow, but in the world of Romancero, that needed to happen.
Meanwhile, Cornelia appears at the police station and attacks Teo in front of a perplexed Carmen. Teo gets away, and he also takes Carmen with her. Cornelia proceeds to do the only thing you would expect her to do: revive Jordan. And how would she do that? By doing the same as Tábata—pinching above her wrist so hard as to make the blood come out—and pouring it inside Jordan’s mouth. But life can’t be that easy after all, so Caterina barges in to hamper the process. She violently attacks Cornelia with the intention of ending her. But as she slithers her tongue like a snake and tries to wrap it around Cornelia’s neck, Jordan wakes up and stabs her.
Away from the police station, Teo apologizes to Carmen for being who he is, which basically ruined her life. Jordan happens to be his son after all, which also explains Josué’s hatred for the boy. I cringed so hard looking at Teo trying to make out with Carmen in a situation like this and Carmen actually reciprocating, but then it was so satisfying to see her viciously stabbing Teo. After all that he did, he doesn’t deserve a place on earth. Now that her revenge is complete, Carmen sits at a bus stop, not knowing anything about what the future has in store for her. She stands up, and from afar she gets a glimpse of a young boy and girl running towards her while holding hands. Could it be Jordan after all? she wonders. We do know it is Jordan, who we see on a truck getting out of town, with Cornelia right beside him. A question that might pop up in your head would be: Was Jordan really saved? The answer would be yes, given all the out-of-the-ordinary things in Romancero actually happen—as much as those stand in as metaphors. Concluding all the uncharacteristic things in the series as “fantasy” that is taking place inside the head would not be the wise thing, I suppose. Also, we need to remember that Jordan and Cornelia winning against all the odds is rather symbolic, as millions of oppressed people all over the world should find some hope in that.